Review by Sanguinarius_
"Yuji Horii must take gymnastics, because this game is a split..."
Dragon Quest IX stands proud with one foot in the good ol'door of nostalgia, and the other foot creeping steadily forward towards the dawn of the new modern RPG. It's no joke that Dragon Quest is obnoxiously popular in Japan while, for the most part, being a niche RPG series in the USA. Dragon Quest holds a special place in my heart, the first games I ever played were the Dragon Quest (known as Dragon Warrior back in the 90's due to some trade marking conflicts in the states), games for Game Boy. I loved Dragon Quest and played it over and over and over, so its obvious I was planning to get this game before it even came out.
If you've never played a Dragon Quest game before, I can't expect you to understand my obsession with slimes and metal babbles. But don't feel anxious, there's nothing you need to know about Dragon Quest before actually playing it and the game does a decent job of helping you out in the beginning.
Gameplay - If you've ever played a Dragon Quest game in the past, you know what to expect. Battles take place in a turn-based fashion, on a full 3D field. While the field is 3D there is really not control or advantage to having it like that, it simply is a pretty addition, and a very welcome one especially on the DS. You control a 4 person party, which consists of you and 3 other characters you create, and the creation options cross over several different types of faces, eyes, hairstyles and so on. When your characters level up in one of the games many vocations (character classes) they are rewarded with skill points which can be placed in any skill tree currently offered to that particular vocation. Skill points can be saved to be used for any class, for example in my game my main character is a tank, so I switched to priest and mage for a little while to level up and gain some skill points to put into more tank like vocation skills. This allows for a tremendous amount of customization, where you literally will never create the same character twice. The customization is a great aspect of Dragon Quest IX, but this does lead to the fact that the game can get a little grindy at times, especially in the post-game areas. The difficulty of this game is spot on. It's rare to find oneself in trouble during the main story. There are hard battles, especially ones leading up to the final boss, but the real challenge is in the post-game random dungeons. In the postgame the boss battles expect that you have min/maxed your characters and know how to play them well, else you'll find yourself dead is no time flat.
Story - The story of this game, in a nutshell, is that of an angel, you, falling out of the angelic celestial observatory, losing you wings, and trying to find your way home. In order to get home you help out the citizens of the world to collect their benevolescence, their thanks for your help. Now I'm being vague on purpose, because I believe there are two types of people who read game reviews, those who care about the story, and those who do not care whatsoever about the story. For those who don't care, move along to the next section. For those who do care, you're in store for a lighthearted adventure, full of puns, (an enormous amount of puns so many that even after 60 hours I find new ones in old places all the time) with a feel good nature about it.
Graphics/Sound - For a game on the Nintendo DS this game plays wonderfully. The Graphics are very good and very polished, sure it's not Crysis, but the locals are very soft and warm, just begging you to explore every nook and cranny of them. In battle the monsters all have a complete range of animations, for idling, different ones for attacking and special attacks, as well as death animations. Several of the monster templates are reused, for example the slime, she-slime, and metal slime, are just recolor's of themselves, but all have an undeniable charm that makes each battle a delight for the eyes. Last but not least is the equipment in Dragon Quest IX. There are many many many different pieces of equipment for each class and weapon type, and every piece of equipment, is displayed on your character at all times. Whenever I get a new piece of equipment its usually a labored decision to change between the matching set on my warrior or adding a new helm for added defense, all based on how the equipment looks. Dragon Quest IX simply does not disappoint in the Graphics department. The sound is essentially the same as all previous Dragon Quest games, to the nostalgic ear such as my own, I love it. But to the new comers ear the sounds will sound somewhat dated, but the over world and dungeon themes still bring the epic scale and sense of terror that truly compliment the game.
Play Time/Replayability - On average I believe that Dragon Quest IX will take between 30-50 hours to complete depending on whither or not you would like to level several vocations or explore every nook and cranny of the game. But do not think that the game is over after the credits have rolled! Depending on what you like to do there is even twice as much content for the postgame compared to the main game! There are many quests and areas that only open up in the post-game and there is also a random dungeon feature that houses all the games elite equipment, as well as rare and not-yet-seen monsters and 24 new bosses to defeat (12 of which are from previous Dragon Quest games and can be leveled up from 1 - 99 for more challenge and better loot). To honestly complete everything, without using cheats, it will take the average person 100-150 hours.
Final Recommendation - Without a doubt, if you own a DS and like RPG's there is no reason not to go out and get this game! The game world simply oozes with charm and wealth of content, pre and postgame provide an endless amount of fun spent in this tiny screen on the DS. Dragon Quest IX combines the love of the past with the capabilities of the future and the result is an amazing RPG that will no doubt stand the test of time as one of the best handheld role-playing experiences ever.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/30/10
Game Release: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (US, 07/11/10)
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